Why You’ll Never Make Your Employees Accountable

Mike Kotsis People Issues Leave a Comment

Why You’ll Never Make Your Employees Accountable

When I first meet with a small business leadership team, I always ask them to rate the how accountable their team is on a scale of 1 to 10. The average among teams is a 4. And inevitably there is a comment or statement made that “I wish our people were more accountable.” The question that soon follows is, “Mike, can you help me make my people more accountable?”

My answer is, No.

Accountability Comes from Great Leading and Managing

This usually catches them off guard. But the truth is, you can’t MAKE someone more accountable. Accountability isn’t something you do to someone. In fact, your team’s level of accountability is a direct reflection of how YOU lead and manage them. It’s on YOU, not THEM.

Being a great leader and a great manager will naturally result in a higher level of accountability among your team. The key is that leadership and management are very different. You’ve got to be clear on the difference between the two and understand how being great at both are essential in your role of boss.

Leadership Vs. Management

Again, the byproduct of a great leader and manager is a higher level of accountability throughout the company. Here are four key differences between leadership and management.


Dwight Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” These are the key characteristics of leadership:

  • Working “on” the business – Being disciplined about elevating yourself above the day-to-day activities “in” the business so you can work “on” the business at consistent intervals. As the philosopher Kurt Gödel said, “You cannot be inside of a system and at the same time understand the system you are in.”
  • Clear direction – Having a clear, compelling vision in writing that focuses and motivates everyone in your organization to rise up, move toward it, and achieve it. You’re providing your people with direction of where the company is going, not telling them what they should be doing.
  • Creating the opening – Producing a sort of vacuum for your people to fill. And since nature abhors a vacuum, the vacuum is always filled. Create an opportunity for someone on your team to rise up, take it, and run with it. A project needs to be done, a role needs to be filled on your team – outline what needs to be done (i.e., the opening) so that someone on your team can recognize the need and step up to the plate
  • Thinking – Henry Ford said, “Thinking is the hardest thing a person can do, which is probably why so few engage in it.” Great leaders take time out of the business on a regular basis to think, get out of the fray, and reflect. There are many benefits of doing this – two of the most prominent are that it will create clarity for you and it will restore your confidence.


Stephen R. Covey said, “Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.” Here are the key characteristics of management:

  • Working “in” the business – Making sure the day-to-day stuff gets done, praising, rewarding and recognizing team members’ accomplishments, and giving constructive feedback to team members quickly – within 24 hours.
  • Expectations – Specifically keeping expectations clear around these four areas is most critical: roles and responsibilities, core values, 90 day priorities, and measurables.
  • Communication – Communication is a two-way street. It’s an opportunity to make sure you’re 100% in sync with each other. A great way to prove that you are communicating well is that you know what is on each other’s minds. In other words, there are no assumptions in your relationships.
  • Doing (executing) – Having the right meeting pulse with each one of your direct reports – i.e., the right frequency of touch points so that you’re in sync, along with a deeper conversation once a quarter. This deeper dive conversation focuses on roles and responsibilities, core values, and 90 day priorities.

Leadership and Management in Action

One of my clients comes to mind. This company is a third-generation family business that’s been around for decades. They have about 100 employees with four locations. One of the key stress points on the leadership team was that they were working too many hours, and definitely didn’t feel like they could take any time off because they were so busy all the time. They were frustrated by a lack of accountability throughout their company.

Over time, the team made some key people moves on their team. They also realized through the process that the the lack of accountability they were feeling was also rooted in the fact that they didn’t prioritize the time to consistently lead and manage their people according to the four points of leadership and management.

Once the leadership team made this a priority, they witnessed remarkable results. Things started to get done consistently, without the leadership team having to do them. The business began setting record monthly revenue and profits. The leadership team gained some breathing room in their daily schedule.

This was all due to the intentional prioritization of the leadership team’s time, dedicating their focus to the disciplines of great leadership and management.

Understanding the difference between great leadership and great management is crucial. To the degree that you focus on the four elements of each, the result will be a higher level of accountability throughout your company.

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